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Dana Nessel: There’s ‘clear evidence' to charge fake electors loyal to Trump

Dana Nessel
Speaking on the second anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riots, Attorney General Dana Nessel said she is reopening a criminal probe into those who signed a certificate falsely claiming President Donald Trump won Michigan in 2020. (State of Michigan)
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel re-opens probe into Trump electors
  • Nessel says there’s ‘clear evidence’ to support charges
  • GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, a target of probe, calls it ‘political witch hunt’

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Friday she is re-opening her investigation into so-called fake electors who aided former President Donald Trump's attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Nessel, a Democrat, had referred the alternative Michigan electors to the U.S. Department of Justice a year ago but told reporters she is "a little worried" that the federal government has not yet filed any charges in the case. 

A "parallel investigation" is warranted given new evidence released by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, Nessel said in a media call commemorating the two-year anniversary of the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

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"I thought that there was already a substantial amount of evidence in that case, but now … there's just clear evidence to support charges against those 16 false electors, at least in our state," Nessel said. 

At issue is a December 2020 document, bearing the name of 16 Michigan Republicans, that purported to be an official certificate awarding the state's presidential electors to Trump despite his 154,188-vote loss to Democrat Joe Biden. 

The document included signatures from Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden and Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, among others. Berden, through her attorney, could not be reached. 

Maddock lashed out at Nessel: “I never expected that modern political witchhunts would be led by literal witches,” she said Friday in a text message to Bridge Michigan.

In a statement, Elizabeth Stoddart, a spokesperson for Michigan Republicans, accused Nessel of "using taxpayer dollars to perpetually persecute her political enemies."

The certificate falsely claimed that pro-Trump electors convened in the Michigan Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020. In reality, they met in the basement of Michigan GOP headquarters in Lansing, as recently confirmed by then-chair Laura Cox in a congressional deposition. 

When she referred the matter to the Department of Justice last year, Nessel mentioned the possibility of criminal charges such as forgery of a public record and election law forgery, which could carry prison sentences of up to 14 years in prison.

Some of the phony electors — including Michelle Lundgren of Detroit — have claimed they did not know what they were signing at the time. 

Berden, listed as chairperson on the document, testified before congressional investigators but pleaded her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 80 times.

Cox, who was chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2020, shed new light on the scheme in a congressional deposition conducted in May and publicly released in its entirety this week. 

Hillsdale College Vice President and General Counsel Bob Norton, apparently working with or for the Trump campaign at the time, told Cox that the pro-Trump electors were planning to try to hide in the Michigan Capitol overnight in order to meet a legal requirement for convening in the Senate chambers on Dec. 14.

"I told him in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate," Cox said in a deposition before the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack.

Trump's campaign was trying to assemble alternative slates of electors in multiple states where the president was contesting election results. The scheme, according to the congressional committee, was part of a pressure campaign to try to convince Vice President Mike Pence to block certification of Biden electors on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Some Trump allies have described the effort in more innocuous terms. 

They were "contingent electors in case any legal challenges changed the result of any state," Republican National Chair Ronna McDaniel, who lives in Michigan and has publicly defended Berden, said in a separate congressional deposition. 

"So then, they would've met as (a) necessary step in case to meet the requirement by the Supreme Court, but they were contingent in case legal challenges changed something in any particular state," she said. 

McDaniel was not a fake elector.

Cox told congressional investigators she had asked the alternative electors to consider a more "ceremonial" document and was not aware of what was ultimately signed. She was not at the meeting in the basement of the GOP headquarters, she said, because she had contracted COVID-19 from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Maddock, the current Michigan GOP co-chair, had attempted to bring a camera crew into the party building, Cox said. 

In a newsletter she sent to local Republicans a day after the meeting, then-14th District GOP Chair Mayra Rodriguez said Trump campaign attorney Shawn Flynn was part of the meeting. In a congressional deposition, Rodriguez said Flynn may have been there but told investigators she did not know him and was not introduced to him.

Other Michigan Republicans whose signature appears on the fake elector certificate include Rose Cook, Hank Choate, Mari Ann Henry, John Haggard, Clifford Frost, Kent Vanderwood, Stanley Grot, Marian Sheridan, Timothy King, James Renner, Amy Facchinello and Ken Thompson.

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